Blog archive

Transparency can't shine without context

"Transparency! Transparency! Transparency!" is the chant of the federal government these days. But there’s another term that is just as important.

The word is context, according to Danny Harris, CIO of the Education Department.

“Are we doing a good enough job explaining the data to the public,” he told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform Subcommittee at a hearing today. The subcommittee was looking at the poor government data quality in federal databases open to the public.

The government has numerous public websites with all sorts of information and datasets on them to become more open and accountable to the taxpayer. It’s working, as it opens the government. However, most of the public doesn’t understand the datasets and the information posted on sites such as and and other department-based websites.

When average people look at one government website with data and then goes to a different federal website to search for similar data, they expect to see the same numbers. If the numbers are different, then there appears to be a problem with agencies’ information, Harris said.

But different websites host different types of data. One may include a unique mixture of numbers that aren't required in another database.

Still, to people who aren’t given context it seems there’s a problem, Harris said.

That’s why it’s tough to make all the datasets and websites appear clean and reliable to the average person.

In a complex world of government data numbers and datasets and data figures and data standards, context along with open data may provide something as important as transparency.

Posted by Matthew Weigelt on Mar 11, 2011 at 12:11 PM

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group